Why is “La Riviere St. Charles” so polluted?

Why is “La Riviere St. Charles” so polluted?

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The St. Charles River that runs from Lac St. Charles to the St Lawrence River through the lower part of Quebec City is extremely polluted when it arrives in the downtown area, and some environmentalists would like to know why.

The river comes from a source which is for the most part a clean, swimmable, healthy lake with a very low pollution level. There is a dam at the beginning of the river’s path to control the flow and to catch larger debris which may start its journey towards the city. Normally the river should be reasonably clean but… it’s not.

There is another dam where the St. Charles reaches the St. Lawrence to control the tide differences, and to prevent any ocean debris from backing up into its mouth. So where is the garbage that we see floating in the St. Charles every spring coming from? Obviously from all the municipalities between Lac St. Charles and Quebec City, including all those on the river’s tributaries.

Every spring the water level in the St. Charles is lowered and almost drained to expose an alarming amount of sediment, tires, furniture, even chemical and fecal contamination, etc. Since the river and its branches are lined with residential developments and industrial parks, it is no wonder the river is inundated with all types of waste of all sorts. A big concern is the sediment, which the INRS (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, or NSRI National Scientific Research Institute) says increases by approximately 3600 tons a year.  If there were no dam at the end of the river this sediment and rubbish would be swept out into the St. Lawrence and consequently into the ocean and we would probably never hear about it. The river is also home to a great number of waterfowl and small animals which is another concern for the INRS and environmentalists alike.

There has been talk over the last 20 years to exploit the lower part of the St. Charles River and open it up to kayaking, canoeing and even swimming; there were even facilities incorporated along its banks to accommodate launching docks and wading pools for such activities but, twenty years later we still cannot use the river as a playground for water sports. Several institutions are studying the situation; besides the INRS, the Association de la Protection de l’Environnement du Lac (APEL), and the OBV Capitale are constantly watching the affair.

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UPDATE: See story update of the state of the river’s pollution here.

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LifeinQuebec.com Staff Writer

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